Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Knollenberg-Peters spat

Editing a newspaper becomes especially difficult during the final days of a campaign. Politicians are not beyond launching unfair 11th-hour attacks and journalists must be careful not to be used by them. In general, we just don't like doing stories on spats that arise in the final week before the election and try to take extra caution when we do because there is little time to correct errors. So we were skeptical when the Gary Peters congressional campaign pressed us to do a story on what it felt was an unfair campaign ad put out by the Joe Knollenberg campaign. Of course, the campaigns made the issue far more complicated than it needed to have been. Knollenberg claimed that presidential candidate Barack Obama criticized Peters' health-care plan as too extreme. In fact, as the Peters campaign stated, Obama was specifically criticizing U.S. Rep. John Conyers' "Medicare for all" plan. Knollenberg claimed Peters supports Medicare for all. While this may be true, Peters does not support Conyers' particular version of Medicare for all. What triggered the story was an Obama campaign statement criticizing the Knollenberg ad. We felt we needed to do the story as a service to people wondering why Obama and Peters were not on the same page on this critical issue. When possible, journalists need to sort through politicians' claims and counterclaims to get to the real facts. Unfortunately, too many politicians exaggerate and make misleading statements.


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